Ferrari will use a modified version of their 2004 car for as many as the first five races of next season, chief designer Rory Byrne said.
The Ferrari F2004 is one of history's most successful F1 cars
"The aim is to have the car on new track at the end of February," Byrne told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We could bring it out from the first race but we want to go deeper into research and design so it is almost perfect when it does appear.
"We expect its debut to be between the third and fifth races."
Ferrari will have to modify their F2004 to comply with new regulations that restrict aerodynamics.
But using that car for the first few races has the benefit of ensuring they do not risk poor reliability with a relatively unproven car early in the season.
It is a tactic Ferrari has employed with great success in recent years, particularly in 2002.
All Ferrari's main rivals are planning to race brand new cars from the start of next season, which is in Australia on 6 March.
The calendar then lists races in Malaysia and Bahrain before two provisional dates - France and San Marino in April.
Byrne said the car that would start the season in Melbourne would be an "an interim version of the 2004 car, on which we will try and incorporate a good part of the aerodynamics of the new car".
The engine will have to be changed to comply with a new rule that requires motors to be used for two consecutive race weekends.
But Ferrari will continue with last year's gearbox.
Ferrari's F2004 won all but three of last year's Grands Prix as the team exceeded even their own domination of 2002.
Byrne said: "The new car will represent another big step forward, but its success will depend on our rivals.
"It will be different to the F2004, but in an evolutionary
sense. Some areas will be very different... the engine will be new, not interchangeable with the current one, as will the gearbox."
Byrne said his assistant Aldo Costa had been heavily involved in the design of the new car.
Costa is being groomed to replace Byrne when the South African's contract expires in early 2007, when Byrne is planning to retire.
"I could stay involved in a different manner," Byrne said of
"But from 2007 I will certainly spend most of my
time in Phuket, in Thailand. My wife is from there.
"I have bought a 7,000 square metre plot by the sea and will build a holiday village with cottages for tourists."